Tag Archive | life lesson

A Mouse in the House

Late one night a couple of years ago, my oldest son came into my bedroom, woke me up and asked, “Mom, do we have any mouse traps?”

Well, of course, that could only mean one thing. Yet, in my drowsiness, that didn’t keep me from asking the obvious: “Why, do we have a mouse?”

“Yes, Mom, we have a mouse.”

“In the house?”

“Yes, Mom, we have a mouse in the house.”

“Where?”

“The last I saw, he was running behind the toaster.”

“On the counter?”

“Yes, Mom, we have a mouse in the house running behind the toaster on the counter. Do we have any traps or not?”

Maybe it was because I was half asleep, but by this time I was beginning to feel as if I was a character in a Dr. Seuss book.

I fell back to sleep listening as my son struggled to set the traps — successful or not, I didn’t know at the time and really didn’t care. I just wanted to go back to sleep. I value my sleep.

About three hours later I was startled awake by noises coming from the kitchen. Not just noises — loud noises! Had it not been for the earlier conversation, I probably would have thought it to be an intruder. The mouse was making so much noise, seemingly running into everything but one of the traps.

I found myself lying in bed wondering if my mouse was blind. The next thing I knew, I was not only intently listening for the mouse, but also singing: “Three blind mice, three blind mice; see how they run, see how they run.”

By now, partly because I was obviously tired — as evidenced by the spontaneous singing of nursery rhymes at two in the morning — and partly because my ears and body were on high alert listening for any signs of the mouse heading my direction, I now had to go to the bathroom!

So, I began thinking that process through.

“I’ve got to put shoes on. There’s no way I’m putting my feet on the floor barefooted.”

Then I thought, “Maybe I should put on my bluejeans as well . . . after all, if he can make his way to the kitchen counter, he should have no problem running up my legs!”

After reprimanding myself for letting my imagination get the best of me, I made a mad dash across the hall and hightailed it back to bed, crawling under the safety of covers as quickly as I could.

By then, of course, there was no way I was going to get back to sleep any time soon. “Did Ben get the traps set? Can the mouse climb up on the bed? Why not? Should I turn on my bedside lamp? Or will that only be leading the mouse straight to me?” So many questions; so few answers.

After turning on the light, I sat there motionless, listening for the least little sound. Then suddenly I heard it — a noise that I thought was getting closer. I held my breath and kept listening. Sure enough, the noise WAS getting closer, no doubt about it.

As I was leaning over, scanning the bedroom floor, looking for any signs of the mouse, I nearly toppled over when I was started by what sounded strangely like my name. “Cher-wo, can I have some water?” The tiny little voice nearly scared me to death! It turned out to be the 4-year-old daughter of a single mom staying with me for a few days.

End of story? The 4-year-old got her water and was sent back to bed. I turned out the light and eventually fell back to sleep with the song “Three Blind Mice” running through my head. And the mouse? I have no idea. We never did catch him. Perhaps he ran off the minute he heard me singing about cutting off his tail with a carving knife!

Lesson learned: At first I really didn’t think I had one. But, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I have ever listened as intently for the voice of God as I did for that mouse. Have I ever sat so still and listened as intently as I did that night?

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Focus 2014

I first started this blog article with the intent to write about resolutions. But, after a couple hundred words, I changed my mind. I hear that’s a woman’s prerogative.

Then I thought I would write on my most memorable New Year’s Eve celebration. That lasted all of about a minute. It didn’t take long to realize I didn’t have one — unless you count the ones when my mom or dad or other family member ended up going to the emergency room for sudden health problems. Why that always seemed to happen on New Year’s Eve is beyond me. Other than those events, I really don’t have a memorable New Year to tell you about because I’m not usually awake to welcome the New Year in — not even the year 2000! Given the opportunity to “party hearty” or sleep, I’ll choose sleep every time. I jokingly tell people that I’m not responsible for anything I say or do after 9:00 p.m. It seems that’s the magic hour that my brain begins to shut down. Usually I will intentionally fall asleep, asking someone to wake me up a couple of minutes before midnight. I’ll say “Happy New Year” and give a quick, although unenthusiastic, “Whoo-hoo!” then promptly fall back to sleep.

Next I thought I would tell you about our Christmas Day we just experienced. But, I figure your chaos and mine would probably be too similar to hold your interest very long. I mean, who of you didn’t also endure a very noisy remote control monster truck running you over, a 3-year-old banging on drums, and a 6-year singing to her heart’s content in the microphone that came with a new keyboard she doesn’t yet know how to play?

So, I had a talk with myself, “Cheryl, what do you REALLY want to write about? Forget what people expect to hear. Forget about the requests some have made. In the quiet of this hour, what is it that’s weighing heaviest on your heart?”

And you know what? I don’t know! I think my five senses are still on overload from the past month of flurried activity.

But, as I think on it, I realize that in the midst of all the activity of the past month, I also purposely began thinking on the Year 2014 and began jotting down notes of changes I wanted to make in my life. Taking time for reflection is a good thing. It’s good for us to pause and take a long, hard look at our lives. To stop and ponder the things in our life that make us comfortable as well as the things that make us squirm just a bit. Areas in our life we want to improve or do better. Perhaps things we want to accomplish before we die.

So, here I am back where I began — resolutions. Our New Year resolutions tell a lot about us. I’m not usually one prone to make resolutions — especially verbal or written ones. I think I have an adverse reaction to the word itself. Almost as if it were poisonous or maybe a synonym for failure. To be resolute in something is to be so determined that nothing will keep you from accomplishing whatever it is you’ve resolved to do. To be resolute in something is to be committed to it.

In thinking all this through, I realized that, for a long, long time, I have been too afraid of failure to formally declare a New Year “resolution.” Instead, I have been calling them “goals.” But in reality, they’re a whole lot like resolutions. It’s just a gentler word for basically the same thing. But why be so afraid of failure? Why not be like the inventor who never gave up? He never looked at all his failures as “failures.” He looked at them as multiple ways of how NOT to do something. Each failure brought about a lesson learned. And you know me — I’m all about lessons learned.

So, this year, although I have multiple goals I’ve shared with an accountability partner, I am making a written resolution. An over-all resolution for the year 2014. A single word to summarize all my goals — FOCUS. As in “Focus on Christ, not my circumstances.”

My personal prayer this year is the hymn, “Open My Eyes That I May See,” by Clara H. Scott (alternate, updated words by Jeff Redd).

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth You have for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unlock and set me free.
Silently now I wait for You,
Ready, my God, Your will to do;
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth so sharp and clear;
And while the message sounds in my ear,
Everything else will disappear.
Silently now I wait for You,
Ready, my God, Your will to do;
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, let me declare
Words of assurance everywhere;
Open my heart, and let me prepare
Your loving kindnesses to share.
Silently now I wait for You,
Ready, my God, Your will to do;
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Am I Smarter Than a Six-Year-Old?

I’ve had multiple times to ponder that exact question and I must say that some days I’m not quite sure!

A few months back, Haley, my granddaughter, asked me what the difference was between “concentration” and “contemplation.” Wow! Good question. Not sure I’ve ever really thought about it much before. So, after a quick mental back-and-forth battle, I answered her the best I could.

Thing is, she has kept me on my toes a lot! My daughter, Stasie, and I noticed a good while back that Haley has a thing for words. It seems that every time we turn around she is coming up with a word or phrase that takes us by surprise. And, what’s more, she usually uses it in the right context, or at least pretty close.

Take for instance one drive home from Sunday morning church. Stasie and I were talking about how unusually tired we both seemed to be and were seriously debating having nap time before lunch. (Nate, my 3-year-old grandson, had already dozed off in his car seat, making our situation that much worse and our decision that much easier.) Overhearing our conversation about napping, Haley chimed in saying, “Well, I prefer to just rest.” What 6-year-old uses the word “prefer” over the words “want to”?

She got to “just rest.”

Or, take the time she asked me if I could “accelerate” through the frozen food aisle because she was cold.

Sure thing! So I chuckled and sped up.

Then there was the time she decided I not only needed to zip my winter coat, but button it as well. So she stood there facing me and, with gloved hands, began to button my coat for me. Without giving up and without taking her gloves off, she finally succeeded at getting all 4 buttons through their corresponding holes and in place. Then she stood back and exclaimed, “Well, that was a struggle!”

“Yes, honey, it sure was!”

Last week as Haley and I were waiting at the bottom of the hill for her school bus, I began asking her questions about her bus “seat-mate.” I learned that he was a boy, that he was probably 5 or 6 years old, and that he was maybe in Kindergarten. When I asked what his name was, Haley paused for a while and said, “Well, that question has me stumped!” Then, with finger raised, she said, “But I will discover it eventually!”

I’m sure you will!

I just stood there shaking my head. I’m not sure what this young lady will grow up to be or do for a living, but I suspect it will have something to do with words — either written or spoken. And I will try my best not to discourage her interest, but will instead encourage her natural ability to grasp words and their meanings. The next time she begs to join in a Scrabble game, I just might include her — even if it does mean I might lose!

Am I smarter than a 6-year-old? I’m still not sure. I like to think so — at least most of the time! One thing I do know is that this amazing granddaughter is a lot smarter than I was at her age.

But I wonder something. Haley has no idea she has a gift for words. She just uses them. When either Stasie or I comment about what she just said, you can see from her expression she’s trying to figure out why what she said was so amazing or unusual. She doesn’t see her gift or ability as anything special — yet. To her it’s as natural as breathing.

As you know, I can’t let this story end without a life lesson being learned or a life application that I need to take to heart. What I have personally taken away from these reflections is this: I know that God gives all of us different gifts and abilities. And it’s up to me to make the best use of the ones he has given specifically to me.

But I’m left wondering: Do I have a gift or ability others see in me that I may be in denial of — yet? Is there something that comes as naturally to me as breathing that I haven’t seen as anything special — yet? Is there something more I need to be doing for God that I’m not doing — yet?

I’m fairly certain the answer to all three questions is, “Yes.” If so, then I need to take some action. I need to focus on getting rid of my “yets.”

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

The thing with life lessons is that they often come when you’re not looking and when you least expect them. And, much of the time, you don’t even realize a lesson was taught until you have had time to sit back and reflect on things later.

One of the first lessons I remember my granddaughter, Haley, teaching me happened on the evening of May 27th, 2008. Haley was all of 15 months old at the time and our family was standing on a hill in a cemetery.

The days leading up to this had been filled with tears, decisions, and shock. My husband, Gary, had passed away unexpectedly on the 16th from a massive heart attack. We had no warning. From all appearances he seemed to be in perfect health. Only those who have experienced first-hand such a loss can fully understand. No one got to say a final goodbye. No one got to say a last “I love you.”

This particular day was the first of our year-long list of family celebrations and holidays that we would have to experience for the first time without our husband, father, grandfather, and son. And it was hard. Impossibly hard. It was Stasie’s birthday. Although we had the usual cake and ice cream and a gift or two, very little celebrating took place. Before she left the house that evening, Stasie asked if I would go with her to the cemetery. We invited others and, knowing a typical spring storm was approaching, 7 of us quickly loaded up in 2 cars and drove the couple of miles to the cemetery.

As we stood on that hill reminiscing, a gust of wind took us by surprise. Fifteen-month-old Haley immediately raised her arms in the air and began laughing and twirling around. The 6 adults just stood there, frozen in place, looking at each other — all fighting the urge to react the same way, but keeping our feelings in check. Was this appropriate? Should someone try to stop her? Almost as if on cue, we all turned our attention from little Haley to Gary’s then 93-year-old mother. What was she thinking?

To our relief, we saw her smile turn to laughter as the wind continued to blow. Soon others joined, not only in the laughter, but in the joy of the wind as well — complete with raised arms and twirling around. To us it was like an infusion of God’s Spirit, reminding us that death is not the end but, rather, the beginning of a wonderful, glorious, carefree life.

As the sky grew darker and sprinkles of rain began to come, we left the hillside. Less than an hour later, after the storm had passed, we were blessed with a glorious rainbow — yet another reminder of a God who loves us and who cares enough to make his presence known, especially in our darkest hours.

So, thank you, Haley, for taking the lead and reminding us grown-ups how to live. Death’s sting has been swallowed up in Christ’s victory. Hallelujah!

Ok, God . . . I Get the Point!

Living life around a three-year-old can be exhausting and entertaining, but it can also be educational. God seems to be using my grandson, Nate, to teach me a lot of life lessons lately. Take the most recent one, for example.

Nate and I were alone for a short time while his mom took his older sister to school. During the course of those 30 minutes, he brought a single piece of candy to me, asking me to unwrap it for him. As his grandma, it was tempting to give in to his request. But, knowing it was probably not the best “second” breakfast option and knowing his mom would strongly disapprove, I declined his request, promising him he could have it later. (As a side note, due to recent revelations of a heart health concern, we are working toward reducing his sugar intake severely. Much easier said than done this time of year!) Anyway, Nate apparently didn’t like my answer, because he promptly left the room and took it upon himself to unwrap the candy and eat it. I know because he came to me a few minutes later with chocolate on his sweet little sheepish-grinned face!

Now that he was thirsty, Nate then asked me to get him a drink. I told him I would if he could wait just a minute while I finished what I was doing. He obviously didn’t wait because the next thing I knew, I heard him frantically yelling from the kitchen, “Grandma, I need you!”

Wasting no time in getting to the kitchen, I quickly saw what had happened. This sweet little chocolate-covered-faced three-year-old had taken it upon himself to pour his own drink. The result: one cup on its side, juice all over the counter, and one little boy standing there frozen in place, not sure what to do. I thanked him for letting me know about the mess and reminded him that he should have waited. I then proceeded to clean up his mess while he (now more patiently) stood there waiting for his drink.

One lesson, twice taught, in the course of maybe five minutes. That morning it dawned on me that, very often, my responses to God’s answers to my requests are not much different than Nate’s responses were to me.

I don’t like it when I bring a request to God and he tells me I need to wait. On more than one occasion I’ve walked away and treated myself to it anyway. I’ve charged ahead with my own plan or agenda to make my request happen in MY time. Then, when everything backfires and I have a full-fledged mess on my hands, I run to God, yelling, “God, I need you.”

When that happens, I can almost hear God sigh as he lovingly takes my mess and begins the process of cleaning it up, all the while quietly whispering, “Cheryl, honey, we’ve been through this before — if only you could have waited just a little bit longer.”

The Security Light

I had yet another visual aid lesson a couple of days ago. It was after dark when I needed to make a quick trip into Knoxville. As I walked out onto my front porch and began to take that first step leading down to the driveway, I realized the security light did not come on as it should have.

“Probably another burned out bulb,” I thought.

So I slowly and cautiously stepped down. Second step, still no light.

“Yep, must be a burned out bulb. Seems like that needs to be changed much too often!” My thoughts continued.

So I slowly and cautiously took another step down. And another, gaining confidence as I went. Then, reaching the last step, boom! The light suddenly came on, illuminating my path and nearly scaring me to death. While I was thankful for the light, I was a bit frustrated that it hadn’t come on sooner. After all, it seemed to me the most dangerous and uncertain of my steps was the first one off the porch — not the one that landed me on solid ground.

As I drove and thought about a solution to the problem of the security light, I realized what a lesson in faith this was. Although I couldn’t see the first few steps I was taking, I trusted them to be there for me. Why? I had experience with these steps. The steps and I have a history together. These steps had been there when I needed them before. Why not now?

That’s the way it is with our walk with God. Very often we find ourselves in situations where it’s just too dark to see the next step in front of us. You desperately want to, but you just can’t make it out. Yet, because you have had experience with God in the past during other times of darkness he brought you through, you continue on. Because of your past history with God, you keep going forward. Maybe slowly. Most likely cautiously. But you keep going nonetheless. That’s the important thing — keep moving forward. Each circumstance we ever faced in which we stepped out in faith in God is yet another foundation on which we can stand as we take our next, often larger, step of faith.

I decided that night what I need to do with the security light is to get my ladder and re-position and tighten the screws so the light triggers a bit sooner.

As I pondered the life lesson to be learned, I decided what I need to do is re-visit God’s faithfulness in times past, grab His Word, and commit (or re-commit) a few key verses to memory. I think I’ll start with this one: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV)